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All the penguins, icebergs and mountains, but with added activity - kayak, snowshoe and camp on the ice. If you love the idea of the landscapes and wildlife of Antarctica, but dislike the idea of a sedentary cruise, this small ship adventure is for you.
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Land in Buenos Aires today. On arrival you are collected by your guide and taken to your charming small hotel in either the Palermo or Las Canitas area. Despite being close to the centre of the city, these barrios are quiet, leafy and green with lots of pavement cafes. Relax after your journey and stretch your legs this afternoon, before strolling to one of the restaurants nearby for supper.
Spend this morning in the company of your own private guide who can take you on and off the beaten track in this lively and beautiful city. You will have a car at your disposal, but we recommend getting out and walking for some of the tour. Rather than follow a specific route, you basically just let them know what sorts of things you like to see and they can take you. This afternoon you might like to explore the enormous and rather lovely Recoleta cemetery.
Arrive in Patagonia as you fly south onto the island of Tierra del Fuego and the world’s most southerly city. On arrival transfer to your small friendly hotel on the shores of the Beagle Channel a couple of kilometres outside the main town. This afternoon you have time to explore, perhaps taking a walk in the nearby Tierra del Fuego National Park.
Today you are free to explore Ushuaia and its surroundings. If you'd like to stretch your legs, Tierra del Fuego National Park offers spectacular scenery for coastal walks and sea kayaking. If you don’t fancy a walk there is a (very touristy) locomotive train that takes you into the park.
You have most of today in Ushuaia before checking in at the dock at approximately 16:00. Here you board the MV Plancius which will be home for the next 10 or 11 days. You are welcomed on board by the boat’s Expedition Leader and staff and shown to your cabin. This evening set sail along the Beagle Channel and out into the open seas of the Drake Passage - time to get your sea legs on.
Crossing the Drake should really be a rite of passage for any Antarctic traveller. Aside from any ‘bragging rights,’ it really brings into focus the achievements of the early explorers in simply reaching the continent, with historic equipment and wooden ships. Only by crossing the Drake yourself (albeit in much more comfort), can you begin to appreciate how intrepid were the likes of Amundsen and Shackleton.
Continue across the Drake today. While the sound of two full days at sea may seem dull, there’s plenty to pass the time. Engaging talks draw out the detail of the wildlife, scenery, and history, and help the sense of excitement, which builds as you head south. Exploring the ship and getting to know your fellow passengers, who are invariably from around the globe, all adds to the anticipation.
Arrive at Wiencke Island, to the west of the peninsula. The dramatic glacial landscape of the island along with the secluded calm waters surrounding it make it a perfect base camp for the next two days of activities. Rather than moving on each day, this itinerary tends to spend longer at specific sites on the Antarctic Peninsula – setting up a ‘basecamp’ from where you explore.
There is a professional photographer on-board who can go ashore with you along with your guide for a photo workshop. The Antarctic landscapes are a photographer’s dream and even novices find themselves keen to capture the scenery and wildlife in the best possible way. As well as the magnificent scenery of mountains, snow and ice, you can expect to see a wide variety of the native wildlife during the next few days.
Sail south through the breathtaking Lemaire Channel which runs between the Antarctic Peninsula and Booth Island. You will see the beautiful Adelie penguins, skuas and blue-eyed shags. Later this afternoon you start heading north again as you sail into Paradise Bay. Spend the afternoon whale spotting from the boat as you navigate through Dallman Bay.
You remain close to the Antarctic mainland for the next two days as you take part in more activities. Take a zodiac ride to get really close to the huge ice formations or take part in another hike on shore. If you are feeling adventurous you can even try mountaineering. This evening you might like to camp out, to be one of few who’ve slept on the mainland. Breathing the dawn air as the sun rises over Antarctica will make you feel as though you’re the first person ever to be there.
Today you have the opportunity to visit one of the scientific research stations in Antarctica, one of 30 stations on the continent carrying out important research into glaciology and meterorology. This afternoon navigate past huge glaciers into Neko Harbour. Wrap up warm as you will be in the zodiacs for over an hour as you zig zag in and out of huge icebergs and get as close as possible to the glacier faces.
Today you have one last opportunity to step foot on the Antarctic continent for a hike around Neko Harbour or Paradise Bay. You could try out any of the activities you haven’t tried yet during your precious time here, or return to a favourite, such as snowshoeing.
This morning you navigate north again via the Melchior islands and towards the open sea of the Drake Passage. The Drake Passage is entirely open water with no land anywhere around the world at these latitudes. This allows for the unimpeded flow of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current which spins around the continent, connecting the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean basins. It’s this which results in the often ‘lively’ seas, and has given rise to the mythical status of the Drake.
Today is another full day at sea though you will normally get back into the protected waters of the Beagle Channel and on to Ushuaia harbour some time this evening. During the day you can browse your photos, relax and chat with your fellow passengers about the amazing adventure, or see if you can't spot the last of your marine mammals from up on the bridge.
Disembark this morning in Ushuaia for your flight back up to Buenos Aires this morning. Landing late afternoon, transfer to your Palermo hotel for a final night's stay.
You may have some time to see a little more of Argentina's capital before you head to the airport for your flight home. Alternatively, consider extending your trip in South America, perhaps to Iguassu Falls or the Brazilian coast.
Going to the Antarctic was a wonderful experience and the active basecamp trip was perfect for us. Amongst many highlights, the sight of four humpback whales corralling krill and feeding in unison is something that will stay with us for a long time. Brian C
I really enjoyed the wild life and activities but to be honest just being there was perhaps the main highlight. Waking up in such an amazing environment was like travelling to another planet. Antony M
All the penguins, all the icebergs and all the mountains but with added activity. This trip is for anyone who loves the idea of the spectacular landscapes and wildlife of Antarctica, but dislikes the idea of a more sedentary Antarctic Peninsula cruise.
Antarctica is a very physical place, from the wild southern ocean crossing to the massive ice flows and high mountains. However, what is surprising to most people is that on the Antarctic Peninsula, in summer, conditions are relatively benign. You will want to be wrapped up warm and windproof most days but it isn’t unknown for shore landings to happen in light fleeces. On the peninsula, you are at the same latitude (in relative terms) as Iceland.
For this particular Antarctica cruise, there is a distinct active element. What they tend to do is moor up for a couple of days at a time in order to run a rolling programme of activities nearby. During the cruise, you should be able to get out and about to enjoy sea-kayaking, snow-shoeing, hiking and even some mountaineering. You do not need previous experience for any activities.
The kayaking is in calm waters and is at a level suitable for anyone from beginner up. There is little in this world to beat the quiet splashing sound of the paddles breaking the heavy silence of Antarctic waters.
As with all activities and landings in Antarctica, weather conditions define everything. If the waters are not calm enough then the kayaking will not be possible. Rough waters around the peninsula are not the norm but are theoretically most likely towards the start and end of the summer season (November and March respectively).
Whilst all small ship Antarctic cruises involve walking on shore, this cruise allows you greater freedom to hike up and inland. Again, routes and extent of walks are defined by weather as well as the group’s ability. The ship attempts to group people into similar activity bands to allow everyone to get the most from their time on board.
Show shoeing is a very gentle looking activity which actually requires rather more concentration than you might imagine – it’s very easy to tread on your shoes and tip yourself over! Once mastered though, it’s a fantastic sensation to crunch over the top of deep snow.
The mountaineering is probably best thought of as high level roped walking – crampons are worn but this is not Chris Bonington stuff, more of a human mule train along the ridges of Antarctica. That’s not to make it sound like a trudge, you are walking in the most extraordinary remote place on earth so the views are beyond most people’s imagining.
Cruises to the Antarctic run between November and March to take advantage of the long summer days as well as the calmer sea conditions in Drake’s Passage.
And a final note on the Drake Passage. It’s a wild stretch of sea which you cross for a couple of days going south and another couple of days going north. It is our strong opinion that Antarctica is a place to be preserved, fiercely protected, and part of that is to make it difficult to get to. To visit Antarctica, you have to ‘earn your stripes’ and that’s the Drake Passage. On the plus side, it is a time for very interesting lectures and talks, to get to know your fellow passengers, crew and guides, and also to stand on the bridge watching sea birds and looking for whales.
Antarctica is primarily a place to visit for the extraordinary landscapes and wildlife, and rightly so. However, much of what you learn will relate to the amazing human history of the continent. As well as visiting the current research facilities down there, no trip to Antarctica would be complete without an insight into the early days of exploration. Tales of endurance and an unquenchable thirst for discovery paint a very different picture of the first trips to the White Continent. Equally, you might find yourself chatting to a member of the Chilean navy, at one of the military bases.
On a very different note, Antarctic expedition cruises tend to be very international affairs with passengers, crew and guides coming from all over the globe, many of whom have some intriguing stories of past adventures. This alone can make the experience wonderfully enriching.
If you would like to join us on this holiday, please call for us to check space and discuss any additional arrangements you may want. We have a more detailed itinerary for this trip, please get in touch and we can email that to you.
However, most people enjoy this cruise as part of a longer trip to South America. The most obvious places to visit are within Chile and Argentina, be that tropical Iguassu Falls or hiking across the Torres del Paine National Park. We would love to prepare a personalised proposal for you to consider so why not call us on 01273 676 712 and we can get started?
The standard trip includes accommodation in a twin/double cabin with a porthole window and private bathroom (upgrades and downgrades available), all meals, activities, lectures and excursions as listed on the detailed itinerary, flights within Argentina, five nights' hotel accommodation in Buenos Aires and Ushuaia, and a privately guided city tour of Buenos Aires. Naturally, on each and every one of our holidays, we include Pura’s expertise, local contacts, support and advice throughout, along with the reassurance of our financial protection and safety auditing. Trip price shown assumes a low season departure.
International flights are quoted separately for this holiday. You need to fly in and out of Buenos Aires (airport code: EZE).
Departs on selected dates between November and March; please contact us to discuss date and boat options.
Contact us today to start planning your own personal adventure
The described itinerary is just a taster of what this trip could involve. We would work with you to tailor your personal trip.
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